Over the last two years, Aston Martin underwent a difficult period and a deep restructuring. Lawrence Stroll, its new Executive Chairman completed a £500 million deal with his consortium, acquiring 16.7% of the company with £182 million and injecting £318 in a new rights issue. A crucial component of this reorganisation is the shift to a production-to-order (or make-to-order) business model. In the words of its former CEO Andy Palmer, Aston Martin aims at becoming the 'British Ferrari' (Autocar).
This is extremely important as it will likely translate into a clear departure from the previous plans for the company. In 2018, which represented a record year for Aston Martin with 6,441 units sold, the medium-term plan was to scale up production to about 14,000 units per year. The new direction for the business will presumably reduce this number significantly, even with high sales expected for the DBX. Let's have a look at what changes the company is going through in terms of the marketing mix and brand strategy.
Once again, the framework used is the Marketing Mix 8Ps employed in my previous marketing mix analysis of Ferrari. To check the details about the method used here follow this link: Ferrari Marketing Mix: The Prancing Horse's 8Ps
The current Aston Martin range is composed of three core products that are also part of the company's heritage, something that cannot be missing in it. Vantage, DB11 and DBS Superleggera. Along with these come two unprecedented additions, born from the new strategy and from an evolving automotive industry where low-volume manufacturers expand their market coverage establishing themselves in other segments. An SUV and a mid-engine product line.
The DBX follows the current trend of the market, but differently from its main competitors, Aston Martin does not have the backing of a larger automotive group. Thus, the platform for this car has been developed completely from scratch, and according to the company, for this reason, it will ensure a unique driving experience that others cannot match.
The mid-engine cars come from the previous partnership with Red Bull Racing established in 2016. Its advanced technology department collaborated with Aston Martin to create a complete line of hybrid rear mid-engine cars, starting with the highly limited Valkyrie (150 units), and Valhalla (500 units). To these should follow the mid-engine Vanquish Vision that was presented at Geneva International Auto Show in 2019 as a concept, and will be a production model.
Its entire line of mid-engine cars goes straight into the competition with Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and McLaren's core businesses. These models though, along with the brand that is being heavily revamped, will also bring the signature of star Formula 1 engineer and aerodynamicist Adrian Newey. His contribution led to countless victories in the sport, and he is considered to be one of the best ever to work in it. This factor alone contributed massively to the expectations for these cars.
The two most important attributes for an Aston Martin product have to be Brand and Design. An Aston Martin is and has to be immediately recognisable by its unparalleled elegance and design features, such as the front grid. Also, as reported in the survey I carried out, featured in the article Not Just Luxury Cars: Aston Martin Diversification Strategy, Aston Martin scored particularly high (8.1) when it comes to brand importance in the purchase decision. On a 1-10 scale, outscored all of its competitors, except for Ferrari by a mere 0.1. This indicates an extremely important brand name to be preserved as a crucial component of its marketing mix.
*Aston Martin Design Evolution and consistency. From the Left: 1958 DB4, 2003 DB7 Zagato, 2018 DBS Superleggera, 2023 Vanquish Vision Concept - Photos, except Vanquish Vision, by Aston Martin Media
All the core Aston Martin models have been positioned as a perfect mix of elegance and comfort while still offering thrilling performance. In the middle between more luxury-oriented automakers like Bentley, and pure performance-oriented ones like McLaren. Valkyrie, Valhalla, and Vanquish should significantly change that.
Regarding the features, while having lagged behind some other automakers due to the deal that allowed Aston Martin to install only previous generation Mercedes technology in their car, the renewed collaboration should solve this issue too. With the new Partnership detailed here, Aston Martin will have access to the latest technologies offered by the German automaker which is currently one of the leaders in the industry.
The price positioning is at the top-end of the market. It ranges from £125,500 of the Vantage up to £247,500 for the DBS Superleggera Volante. DBX starts at £162,125. The hypercar Valkyrie will be well over £2 million, while the Valhalla should be around £1 million.
All of these starting prices might vary massively once options and personalisation by specialised division Aston Martin Q are applied. These can go easily over an additional £100,000.
Value retention is a crucial component of this market for collectors, investors, and the brand itself. This is in fact, a big factor in the company's decision to change its business model. In the past years, Aston Martin cars suffered from steep depreciation. 2005/6 Vantage can be found on the market for a little over £30,000.
Thus, a big effort by the company in 2020, went into destocking. And limiting the offer with the ‘Ferrari-like' production-to-order model should grant a minor depreciation of pre-owned cars in the future preserving the brand exclusivity too at the same time.
As of 2020, Aston Martin sells cars through a network of 168 dealers, with a significant increase in Asia, and particularly China with new locations in Kunming, Foshan, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi'an.
The network is operated through franchises, which enables strong control over brand positioning and limits investments.
Also, like in the previous analysis, Aston Martin dealers are located in specific areas with a higher density of high-net-worth individuals or other luxury car dealerships.
The pandemic in 2020 deeply affected the dealers' operations. Globally there were many closures and the network had to adapt putting in place health and safety measures for staff and clients. This also brought an acceleration on the development of remote points of contact, with increased services digitization and online engagement. These processes will be maintained in the future offering the option of online or face-to-face service.
Aston Martin's restructuring and new strategy modified radically its promotion channels as well.
Traditionally, the pillars of its strategy are motorsport, events, alternative projects, and movies. Over the last decade and especially in the last year, the range of activities and channels has been expanding significantly.
Like other automakers in the space, Aston Martin was born, in 1913, from a racing heritage. Despite the focus on sports car production, one of its founders, Lionel Martin, actively participated in hill climb races. Over the decades its racing heritage was firmly established. Since the 50s, the marque has successfully participated in endurance championships such as the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the 2000s, after a long stop, it returned to the endurance competitions such as the FIA WEC. This has since become part of Aston Martin's image in luxury automotive, and an important promotion platform.
After many successes, in 2021, the new executive decided to partially leave the WEC activities to re-enter Formula 1. This has been a massive move, in which Lawrence Stroll, rebranded his Formula 1 team Racing point as Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 Team, bringing effectively the marque back to the motorsport top series after 60 years. Along with this, the team brought in one of the most successful F1 drivers of all time, Sebastian Vettel, which in fact, being a very influential personality in motorsport has already been featured in the latest beautiful ad online for the DBX. And thanks to the newly established partnership, Vantage and DBX also became Formula 1 official safety cars during the Grand Prix. This campaign brought massive results, and the team reveal was by far the most anticipated of the season, with huge coverage on every channel. Most importantly, it brings Aston Martin closer to what, so far, only Ferrari and McLaren could boast in terms of Motorsport activities and promotion channels.
Additionally, it is known that Aston Martin has expressed its interest in entering with Valkyrie, in 2023, the new FIA WEC LM Hypercar series, which is another championship that promises to attract a lot of attention.
*Photos by Aston Martin Media
With regards to the events, Aston Martin offers a range of experiences to both clients and enthusiasts. From the Art of Life lifestyle program, bringing guests through road trips in special locations, to bespoke events for groups, to the AMR Drivers' Club started in 2019. A program of track-days offering both clients and enthusiasts driving experiences on famous racing tracks with cars from the fleet available or private ones.
Aside from its core business, Aston Martin undertakes a range of innovative and unexpected projects. Bicycle, boats, real estate, and more, detailed HERE, which contribute to expanding the brand's reach and reputation.
The fourth channel I mentioned was the Movie industry. Because, while many luxury automotive brands today and in the past have been featured in movies and television shows, no one enjoys an almost exclusive presence in one of the most successful franchises in Cinema. Aston Martin is, in fact, 007 car of choice. And the next James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die', now delayed multiple times due to the pandemic, will be no exception with four different Aston Martin models featured in it.
Of course, along come also a wide offering of fashion and lifestyle apparel and items developed in partnership with luxury brands.
Finally, tying in with all the previous points, the company enjoys a strong and distinctive online presence on all the major platforms, with the F1 entry giving it a further boost. To this, must be added the models and new unveilings coverage by reviewers and influencers in the automotive space. One above all, Mr. JWW, a successful YouTuber and entrepreneur that in partnership with the brand developed a bespoke highly personalised line of DBX.
Over the summer, to take advantage of the fast-growing E-Sports sector, Aston Martin participated with its team in official competitions, and from 2021 it will have one as well in the F1 E-Sports Championship.
Participants are involved on multiple levels through the customer journey that, as dictated by modern standards in the industry becomes increasingly diversified and complex.
From the order to the specification and personalisation through Aston Martin specialised division Q, of after-sales services and brand experiences. These points of contact will likely be expanded too, via online services. The automaker already has a range of apps for clients and enthusiasts to configure a car and gather other useful information. But right now, solutions bringing together clients as a family and closer to the brand through new seamless services to improve loyalty are more and more common. So a specialised app for owners can be expected as well.
Aston Martin's online presence, overall brand appearance, and physical locations all convey a consistent message and pretty much the same feeling one gets while sitting in a real car. A sense of proper refinement and luxury. As specified by the company, this is maintained through strict control over their dealers' management. The spaces themselves are proper ateliers where clients can specify their cars' options down the tiniest detail. A similar look & feel is brought also in stores and shops selling branded merchandise.
The process can vary a lot depending on the involvement of each individual. As reviewed before, all the services are increasingly personalised and the improvement in digital technology will probably strengthen them. On-demand content delivered to potential clients will be more common.
Also, Aston Martin's new production-to-order approach, intrinsically means that the overall process will become more personal and involving for each car produced, further improving brand loyalty and reputation. This process, anyway, has just started so there are time and space for new solutions.
This is the one characteristics around which revolves most of the modern innovations and refinement in this industry.
Aston Martin Q division announced in 2012 (its name inspired by the 007 series), has recently been updated with two different programs.
The first is Aston Martin Collection. A service that offers a range of pre-designed components to enrich a model. The second, Aston Martin Commission instead gives access to the virtually unlimited options offered to clients and a close collaboration with the specialised team. Materials, colours, finishes, graphic details, internal components, and more.
Along with these, Aston Martin produces a number of limited series dedicated to specialised events and anniversaries, the last of which is the Aston Martin Wings series inspired by the connection with the Royal Air Force. Its three industrial plants, in fact, are located on the former RAF bases.
*Aston Martin Victor. Photos by Aston Martin Media
Last but not least, going with bespoke high luxury, is the One-Off Luxury car development trend. The Prototype Operations program that gave birth to the Aston Martin Victor could bring new one-off models more regularly in the future. This represents the absolute peak of luxury personalisation, with clients working closely with the brand's designers and engineers to develop a unique car.
There is still much that has come to fruition in this renewed business. The DBX potential success, the F1 campaign, the new models, and other projects such as electrified cars. All in all, anyway, Aston Martin has laid the foundations for a successful new decade and a competition stronger than ever. For sure, all this makes it one of the most exciting companies to follow right now.
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